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Your community needs a vision

July 14, 2010
by Susan D. Gilster and Jennifer L. Dalessandro
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Part one of the Staffing Experts’ take on realizing the long-term care dream


A vision is defined as a mental picture, an image, a dream, or farsightedness—the ability to anticipate possible future events and developments. It is an image or concept in the imagination, a beautiful or pleasing sight. When constructing a piece of furniture, building a house or establishing a business, you have a vision of what it is that you want to create.

Establishing a new organization or enhancing the vision of an existing one is no different. A vision can be an incredibly powerful tool and, when used properly, can engage the hearts, hands, and minds of people around a mental picture or “dream.” A living, working, integrated vision in the workplace can make a tremendous difference in what a group of people can accomplish. Despite difficulties and road blocks, people with a vision do not worry about what holds others back. They have goals, a dream—and nothing is going to stop them. Employees in an organization with an active, incorporated vision are not concerned with what others are doing. They don’t follow trends or “en vogue” concepts, they have a direction, a destination, a purpose and they are secure. They are less concerned about comparing themselves with others in the industry to see where they stand because employees in a vision-led organization know where they stand. They are not following the pack; they are out front leading and setting the standard.

For decades, research on staff satisfaction has indicated that what is most import to employees in their work is to be involved in something meaningful, working to make a positive impact in the lives of another. Staff caring for the ill and elderly do so because they want to make a difference; to contribute, care, and nurture those in need. When a job involves contributing to improving the life of another it becomes a much more satisfying, fulfilling work experience. When an employee can see that their work enhances the life of just one person, they are even more motivated to perform. In long-term care and assisted living, most employees come to work each and every day to make the life of an older adult better, less painful, more productive, happier, and full.

Vision formation starts with the facility leader. When accepting a position, the leader’s duty is to identify what he or she wants to create. Time spent reflecting on what the leader wants to build is time well spent. Consider your vision as a mental image or picture of what you are trying to create: a dream. Using your imagination, you create an image of what you want the organization to become. Imagine how the environment will look and feel, the quality of care you will provide, and the camaraderie of the workforce.

Once the leader is clear about their own vision for the organization, they take their version of the vision to the leadership team for review, input, expansion, or alteration as appropriate. Once the leadership team has formulated a clear vision, sessions with the remaining facility staff take place to introduce the vision and solicit input from the employees. When everyone agrees to a common vision it will be a vision that is “shared” and hence belongs to all. While the vision may be initially generated by the leader it will not come to fruition if it is not shared by the entire workforce. The key is to establish a shared vision—one that everyone in the community has created together and are willing to embrace.

In some communities the vision is developed by individuals at the corporate level and given to the facility for implementation. Even so, the leader, leadership team, and facility staff can still discuss, review, alter, or interpret the vision to make it their own and one that they agree to work toward achieving. If a vision is simply created and given to employees without their input or any discussion, it is not unreasonable to expect that they may not embrace it or make it their own. People will work much harder to make something occur if they participate in the development. When integrated into the process, employees own the vision and are invested in working to make it a reality.

The purpose of a working vision is to use it in the day-to-day operations. It should be used for interviewing potential employees and determining programs, processes, and procedures. All initiatives, either internal or external projects, should be ones that are consistent with the shared vision. When determining a new project or initiative, use the vision to ask the question, “Will this project support the vision; is it consistent with the vision?” Vision enables everyone in the organization to stay focused and clear about the direction and the destination to which they are to contribute each and every day.

A vision is more than words on a piece of paper and cannot lie dormant. To ensure that the vision is effective and on the minds of all employees it must be reviewed and discussed often, especially in the early stages of implementation, to ensure that the staff stays on the right course. In time, once the vision is instilled in the facility operations, annual review may be sufficient as well as any time the organization seems to have lost focus. A reminder and discussion of the vision, the destination, the dream seems to be sufficient to put the team back on course.

Our next column will expand on the benefits of a vision for both leaders and staff.

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